The once-popular belief in Telluria that fairy tales are mere nonsensical fancies for children is losing ground. Among educated people it is generally accepted that they were not originally intended for children (although the fact that children, on their own level, can appreciate them bespeaks their universality) and that they contain depths of meaning far beyond what appears on the surface. Yet despite this rehabilitation of fairy tales (which, in itself, usually implies only the scantiest understanding of their true meaning, and often takes the form of outright misinterpretations based upon the errors of Jung and Freud) there has been but little tendency to see in nursery rhymes anything more than pleasant childish nonsense.

The scope of the nursery rhyme is much broader than that of the fairy tale, ranging from lullabies and baby-games to some quite sophisticated story-verses. In Aristasia we find a wide range of verses, some of which are simply a child’s first introduction to certain aspects of life and to familiar figures of the natural and human realms; others are proverbs concerning good conduct — but none of this is merely ‘secular’ in the modern sense, since the traditional way of life and view of life is being taught both in the verses themselves and in the explanations of them given by grown-ups; a view of life in which all earthly things are reflections of the Absolute. The obedience, grace, courtesy and uprightness taught by the proverbs are the very foundation-stones of the life of thamë — life within the harmony of Dea’s earthly family and of Her divine Law.

Nevertheless, many of the rhymes have a far more detailed and specific inner meaning. As with fairy tales, many of them have direct equivalents in Telluria. Here is one which is known by both peoples and has long been treasured for Its beautiful, haunting quality:

How many miles to Abolan?
Three score and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If thy heels be fleet and light
You’Il be there by candle-light.
(Open the gates as wide as you may
And let the Rayin’s horses pass through on their way.)

In many Tellurian versions, the Holy City of Abolan appears as the somewhat-assonant Babylon (though in other versions it is Edinburgh or some other city). This use of the Wicked City is a rather ironic, since it obscures the whole point of the rhyme. In Aristasia, Abolan was the capital of the old Western Empire (Abolrai), and the name is related to Avala, the Western paradise or Isles of the Blest. Abolan is a type of the Holy City, and as such, the Heart, Centre and Temple of the surrounding land. The Journey to Abolan is, therefore, maid’s spiritual pilgrimage to the true Centre. Three score and ten, of course, is not a number picked at random, but is a symbolic length in folk-tradition for a human life.

Many of the critical junctures of life occur at the multiples of seven years: the attainment of reason at seven, temple-entry in the East at fourteen, adulthood at twenty-one, the Grand Climacteric at 49 etc. 7×10 links human life to the historical cycle (symbolised by 10). The light of a candle is a traditional image of a single human life. Thus the road to Abolan is the spiritual journey of a maid’s earthly life; a life lived in thamë, whose every activity, however apparently ‘worldly’, is related to the Centre, and whose reward is a coming-to-the-Centre. It is not, however, a reward won lightly, for she must exercise skill and speed in order to attain the Goal.

This idea brings us to the final two lines. They are placed in brackets because they are used only when ‘Abolan’ is played as a game. The Rayin (queen) represents the human soul, and her horses are the various powers and tendencies of the soul which must be disciplined and harnessed in order to attain the Goal. Two players (they may or may not be children) choose the names of ‘opposites’ such as gold and silver, day and night, and then hold up their hands to form a gate. The other players form a ‘crocodile’ (the Rayin’s entourage) in front of the gate, and the rhyme is recited as an exchange between them and the gates. At the end the gates open and they pass through, but the gates come down in an attempt to trap the last player. This is the “perilous passage” motif so common in the fairy tales: the need to pass through all the dualities and oppositions of the world in order to attain the Absolute, the Oneness, which lies beyond them.*

The necessity of swiftness represents spiritual skill; if the player is too slow, she will be caught, and even if she succeeds her tail may be docked by the gates (often the soul is represented by a hare or a bird). The rest of the game reinforces the concept of the conflict of opposites which creates the flux of the material world and of the perilous passage: each child, as she is caught, must choose in whispers one of the two secret names, and, having chosen, lines up behind the gate to which it belongs. When all the players have been caught there is a tug-of-war between the two sides, and sometimes the losers must run the gauntlet between the winners, who attempt to whip their legs with long grasses or thin sally (willow) switches as they pass through.

The riddle-rhyme:

Old Mother Granya hath but one eye
And a long tail which she does let fly;
And every time she doth jump through a gap
She leaveth a part of her tail in a trap.

refers obviously to the perilous passage motif. The answer, of course, is a needle, and it is connected also with the solar symbolism of sewing and the strivatë or thread-Spirit. The ‘one eye’, as well as its obvious reference, is the ‘single eye’ which sees only the One Spirit and not the pairs of opposites. Of similar import are such rhyme-games as “Thread My Grandam’s Needle” and “Through the Needle-Eye”, both of which have actions related to that of “Abolan”.

A different type of game is the acting-game of which “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is the best-known example. Here one player stands in the centre while the others form a ring around her. During the choruses they dance round her like the planets about the sun, while in each verse she chooses and leads the action (this is the way we clap our hands, sow the corn etc.). In some versions she is a bramble-bush, but both the bramble and the mulberry are associated with forms of Dea**, and is a minor representative of the World Tree. In each case she represents the still Point at the centre of manifestation, the solar Spirit Herself, by Whom all the forms of manifestation are expressed in their perfect Essence and are reflected upon the rim of the wheel of being (in the realm of movement and multiplicity).

There are many rhyme-games of this sort. Strictly (because of the perfect “obedience” of the ring) this one represents not the relation of hub to the rim of the wheel, but of the axle-point to the hub: that is to say, of God Herself to the Angelic or Archetypal realm of unfallen creation. Competitive versions which turn upon the mistakes made by the players represent the relation of the hub to the rim: the fallen world of matter, which mirrors the Spirit, yet is ‘a broken and imperfect reflection’ of Her.

Finally, let us consider a very different, though related, rhyme:

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear.
The High Princess of Caire
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.
I skipped over the water,
I danced over the sea,
And all the birds of the air
Couldn’t catch me.

In Tellurian versions the High Princess of Caire is usually represented by The King of Spain’s Daughter — a topical reference to the visit of Joanna of Castile to the English court in 1506 grafted onto an older rhyme. The tree, as is often the case, refers to the Axis Mundi, the central pillar of being, and the possession of it indicates oneness with the central or primordial human state.

A maid in such a state is said to be “in possession of her heart”. The golden and silver fruits are respectively the Spirit and the soul which meet in the heart and the two faculties of the heart: pure Intelligence and pure Love (as opposed to their lesser material reflections, reason and emotion), for the Pear is ruled by Sai Sushuri (Venus) and the nutmeg by Sai Mati (Mercury). The subtle interplay of these two ‘cordials’, related to the symbolism of Wine and of the Chalice, is inherent in the specific fruits used, showing them to be far more than mere random choices, for the scent of the pear has a certain airy, Matic quality (strongly apparent in pear-drops) as opposed to the more obvious choice, the apple, which is the Sushuric fruit par excellence. The scent of nutmeg, for its part, bears a resemblance to the highly Sushuric musk, as its name indicates (from nut + Old French muge = musk).

That the tree will bear nothing else indicates the same singleness of purpose as Mother Granya’s one eye. The realisation of the Primordial State places maid in a situation more central even than the great ritual Centres of the sacred world; thus the High Princess of Caire (the Holy City of the ancient Celestial Empire of the East), herself the ritual representative of primordial Centrality, makes pilgrimage to she who has actualized the true Centre within herself.

The last two lines show her as a liberated soul, a mover-at­-will. Her speed again represents spiritual skill; dancing or walking on water is a sign of spiritual perfection in Aristasian scriptures, as it is in those of the Buddhists and Christians in Telluria. It represents, among other things, the ability to cross at will between the hither and nether shores; between this world and the world beyond; between earth and Heaven, without need of the ritual ‘bridges’ used by the rest of (normal traditional) humanity.

Of course, the full doctrines which lie enfolded in the nursery rhymes are far too complicated for a young child to understand. As with the fairy tales, she begins by feeling only a sense of special magic about them. As she grows older, at least in the East and in the more traditional families of the West, she is slowly led deeper into the real source of this feeling — the inner mystery of the rhymes. Her childhood experience is not simply denied and written off as “childish” but confirmed, deepened and explained. This is a part of the bringing-up of all normal, traditional children, as opposed to the bringing-down which the abnormal Tellurian society inflicts upon its offspring — the systematic denial of all that is deep and true in their natural perceptions until, when they finally come of age after years of perverse “education”, they, quite literally, have not the sense they were born with.
* The “active door” or “narrow gate” motif, comprised of two facing dangers, is probably best known in Telluria from the Homeric Scylla and Charibdis, but for numerous Tellurian examples from many cultures, together with a traditional exegesis, see Ananda Coomaraswamy’s “Symplegades”.

** Here again, there are Tellurian parallels — for example, in the Iliad the goddess Hera decorates her pierced ears with mulberry clusters, and the mulberry is also sacred to Minerva; the bramble was sacred to St Bridget of Ireland (originally the goddess Brighde); the Chinese goddess Ma-Ku took land from the sea and planted it with mulberry trees. Many more examples can be found.